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Sometimes, people confuse dissociative identity disorder, formerly known as multiple personality disorder, and schizophrenia. Schizophrenia does mean “split mind,” but the name was meant to describe the ‘split’ from reality that you experience during an episode of psychosis, as well as changes in thoughts, emotions, and other functions. Dissociative identity disorder, on the other hand, does cause a split or fragmented understanding of a person’s sense of themselves.
Dissociative identity disorder is really more about fragmented identities than many different personalities that develop on their own. Most people see different parts of their being as part of the whole person. For people who experience DID, identity fragments may have very different characteristics, including their own history, identity, and mannerisms. A key part of DID is dissociation—feeling detached to the world around you. People who experience DID may have many unexplainable gaps in their memory, forget information they’re already learned, or have difficulties recalling things they’ve said or done. Unlike portrayals of DID on TV or in movies, DID may not be obvious to others, and it can take a lot of time to come to the diagnosis.
Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that causes hallucinations (sensations that aren’t real) and delusions (beliefs that can’t possibly be true, in addition to other symptoms like jumbled thoughts, jumbled speech, and difficulties expressing emotions. People who experience schizophrenia may hear or feel things that aren’t real or believe things that can’t be real, but these aren’t separate identities.
Where can I learn more?
- Schizophrenia info sheet
- International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation
- Ask Us: What’s the difference between psychosis and schizophrenia?
About the author
The Canadian Mental Health Association promotes the mental health of all and supports the resilience and recovery of people experiencing a mental illness through public education, community-based research, advocacy, and direct services. Visit www.cmha.bc.ca.